Article and photo by Ramona du Houx
Attorney General Janet T. Mills was administered the oath of office today by Governor Paul R. LePage, beginning her second consecutive term and third overall as Attorney General. In remarks delivered in the House Chamber following the swearing in, Attorney General Mills highlighted her Office’s efforts to protect consumers’ rights, prosecute domestic violence homicides and frauds against the state, protect children from abuse and fight drug trafficking.
Attorney General Mills focused on the terrible toll that drugs and domestic violence has taken on children in Maine over the last year. Mills noted that reports of child abuse and neglect have increased 58% over the past two years which translates into a much higher case load for the attorneys in the Attorney General’s Child Protection Division. For the attorneys assigned to the Maine Drug Taskforce, 32 percent of the felony drug cases closed last year involved heroin, up from just 7 percent two years before. In 2014 961 babies born in Maine were affected by drugs and 176 people died from drug overdoses in 2013.
“The drug epidemic deserves our intensive and collaborative effort — from public education, punishment of dealers and treatment of offenders,” Mills stated. “Working with the MDEA, the US Attorney, the pharmacies, the medical community and advocates like Skip Gates, my office will take part in an all-out attack on meth-makers and heroin and opiate traffickers who are killing our youth.”
Attorney General Mills noted that 2014 was especially cruel to children when it came to cases of domestic violence homicide. While a total of 21 homicides is a low number historically, 14 of those were domestic violence homicides and 8 victims were children under the age of 13. Mills read the names of the children and then stated, “Eight children killed in one year. A first for our state. And we must never ever let it happen again.”
Attorney General Mills called attention to the need to repair the situation at Riverview Psychiatric Hospital. “We will work hard to better balance due process rights, the safety of staff and patients and the fiscal needs and safety of our state,” she said.
Attorney General Mills also spoke to the public impression that the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the Governor do not work together. Noting that she and the Governor have some things in common, Attorney General Mills said, “While it’s true you probably won’t catch Gov. LePage and me sitting down sharing a glass of Chardonnay, eating Brie and watching Downton Abbey together, still on any given day, you will see my office working with the departments of state government and representing the state in nearly 7,000 separate legal matters. We work together. And, for the most part, the interests of my office, the interests of the Maine Legislature and the interests of the administration are well aligned. When they are not, you will know about it. And on the thousands of occasions when they are running smoothly, you will hear little. But know that this happens. And it will be for the public good, mindful of the necessary independence of the constitutional offices.”